(NEW YORK) — Christian Carollo is traveling all over the United States to recreate over 400 of his late grandfather’s photos for what he calls his “Past Present Project.”
Carollo, 33, said the photo series is a late “present” to his grandfather, Herb Connellan, who died from cancer in 2008 at age 87.
“Unfortunately, it was only two to three years after he passed away that I realized he was the reason I loved travel and photography,” Carollo said from his north Philadelphia home after recently coming back from a trip out West.
“My uncle gave me boxes of [my grandfather’s] old slides in October of 2012, when I stumbled over photos he took of the Oregon Coast, which is exactly where I was set to be traveling a week later,” he said. “So I thought, why not try and recreate the exact photo?”
Carollo recreated one of the photos, and when he showed family and friends back home, he said their positive reaction “spurred me on to do even more.”
The 33-year-old has traveled to 12 states in the past three years, including Louisiana, Utah and California, he said. Carollo added that he has recreated about 100 of his grandfather’s photos, but he still has a little over 300 to go in more than 10 states.
“All the photos are from the trips he and my grandmother did during their retirement from 1973 to 2003,” he said. “My grandmother, who’s now 101, actually kept really detailed travel journals logging everywhere they went, so that’s really helped me with the scavenger hunt for the all the photos’ locations.”
Carollo said his favorite part of the adventurous scavenger hunt is that it has allowed him to meet some of the people or families of the people his grandparents ran into over three decades ago.
“I was in Mississippi last year trying to recreate this photo my grandpa took of an artist sketching a steamboat, and I thought, ‘Hey, maybe this man is still alive, and I can find him,” Carollo recalled. “I looked in my grandma’s journal, and I found out the artist was Mr. Chadwick from Natchez, Mississippi.
“I did some research, and I came across his obituary. He had just recently passed away, but he was survived by his wife, daughter and son.”
Carollo was able to get in touch with the artist’s daughter, who lived in New York City, and the day he connected with her and showed her the photo also happened to be her father’s first birthday since his death.
“It was a really moving experience, and she told me that the way my grandfather captured her dad was a perfect example of how she remembered him,” he said. “I personally delivered the photo to her mom in Mississippi, and she also brought along the sketch he was working on in the photo. It was incredible.”
Carollo said he hopes his photo series will help remind people the importance of valuing family and the memories you share together.
“My grandfather always thought that the time he poured into his photographs had gone to waste, but this project proves that wrong,” he said. “And I hope he sees how thankful I am for the photos and stories he shared with me throughout my life.”
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